Many institutions of higher education, especially the small privates and regional comprehensive public universities, are experiencing double-digit declines in enrollment. This is leading to a variety of actions by administrators, from layoffs of faculty and staff to efforts to increase enrollments. Here is an example of a enrollment recovery plan for a public regional comprehensive university.
There are many actions listed to increase enrollment that make sense to do (though some actions will require modifying faculty and staff evaluation criteria). But, do you notice anything missing? How about improving teaching.
Every college or university experiencing declining enrollment has a plan to increase enrollment. They are all chasing the same students. It is a zero-sum activity that buys time for survival but does not result in improved teaching. If anything, the focus on improving enrollments will delay much needed improvements in teaching and related academic processes.
It seems likely that improving teaching would improve enrollments (and retention and completion rates), especially if this were marketed vigorously by the university and by university leaders. Even if it did not improve enrollments in the short-term, it should be a goal that higher ed institutions work towards to correct the 10 percent problem and eliminate the 45 teaching teaching errors.
Too often university leaders are unaware of the true state of affairs when it comes to the core teaching mission of the school. Like any leader, they assume core processes function well simply because they function. One expects greater insight and critical thinking from their leader (or, if you prefer, one expects more considering the money that presidents make). In contrast, the Lean leader recognizes that in a conventionally managed college or university, core academic processes are filled with waste, unevenness, and unreasonableness. The processes are the problem, not the people.
Ask your university president, provost, and Dean to read Lean Teaching, to help them see the vast improvement that is possible to achieve in time to mitigate cost cuts – a path that most university presidents, I hear, would rather not continue following.